Republican Voters Are Ready for the Next Culture War

Republican Voters Are Ready for the Next Culture War

Republican Voters Are Ready for the Next Culture War

After Donald Trump was found liable for battery and defamation in federal court, his base has continued to rally behind him.


Late last week, the Arizona-based polling firm Noble Predictive Insights released its latest survey of GOP voters regarding their sentiments around the upcoming primary and presidential election campaigns. The poll found that 49 percent of Republican primary voters were in Donald Trump’s camp, compared with only 21 percent for Ron DeSantis. No other candidate saw double-digit support. Head-to-head, Trump led the Florida governor by 18 percent. In this hypothetical two-person contest, DeSantis came out marginally ahead among voters with a higher education. Trump came out far ahead with other demographics, winning 66 percent of GOP women.

The polling was, of course, conducted before a jury in a New York federal court found that Trump had sexually abused, battered, and then defamed E. Jean Carroll, and awarded her $5 million in damages. So I guess it’s possible that Arizona’s GOP women will suddenly have a moral awakening about Trump—in the same way as it’s possible that the UK will one day ask to reclaim London Bridge from its current desert home in Arizona. More likely, vast numbers will either ignore the story entirely or chalk it up as yet another example of the “witch hunt” Trump continues to claim is being orchestrated against him.

After all, if they were going to be swayed by evidence against Trump, they would have been swayed long ago. They might have hit the pause button when, for example, the infamous “grab them by the pussy” tape was released in 2016. Or more recently, when the ex-president was indicted for falsely reporting a hush-money payment to a porn star he allegedly slept with. Or any multitude of other times that he has at the very least danced right to the edge of legality in his personal, business, and political dealings.

In the deposition that Trump gave during this civil case, he was asked about the “pussy-grabbing” comment. The ex-president doubled down, saying that powerful men with star-power—among whom he included himself—had always behaved this way, “unfortunately.” He paused, and then, seemingly unable to help himself, added “or fortunately.” When pressed about the specifics of Carroll’s allegations against him, he doubled down on his biliousness again, saying that while it wasn’t politically correct to say so, he’d say it anyway: She wasn’t his type.

For Trump’s supporters, there’s no greater insult than to call an individual, an idea, or a policy “PC” or “woke.” It’s a way of shutting down debate, and of playing to deeply ingrained emotional grievances. Conversely, there’s no greater badge of honor than being as anti-PC as possible. And going into election season, the GOP will have plenty of grist for its anti-woke mill.

Take last week’s recommendations by California’s reparations task force for the creation of a program to provide financial compensation to descendants of slavery in an attempt to mitigate the centuries of accumulated disadvantage and prejudice that continue to fuel wealth gaps that leave millions of African Americans mired in poverty. The amount of the reparations could, in some instances, come to $1.2 million per person.

That some supporters of reparations have come up with outlandish numbers makes the idea easier to caricature. In recent weeks, it has been pointed out repeatedly that in theory a reparations bill in California, if crafted according to task force recommendations, could rise to $800 billion, or even $1 trillion—roughly three times the annual budget for the state. Task force members have been quoted in the media as saying such numbers don’t matter or are unimportant. In San Francisco earlier this year, the city’s task force suggested reparations that could rise to $5 million per eligible recipient, which critics gleefully calculated would impose a $600,000 cost on each non–African American family in the city.

Numbers do matter. It’s one thing to argue for reparations for slavery and generations of subsequent discrimination as a moral necessity—and to then have a vibrant public debate about who qualifies, how to determine eligibility, whether money should be distributed to individuals or to communities, whether it should be in the form of cash payments or social infrastructure investments, whether economic status should play a role or whether it should simply be reduced to a matter of race (and, if the latter, how on earth one determines the race of each individual applicant). But it’s quite another matter to put forward numbers that would bankrupt cities and states and would, inevitably, sow the most godawful of political backlashes. (Only about 30 percent of Americans support the concept of reparations to begin with, and I’d bet my bottom dollar far fewer would support a trillion-dollar budget-busting proposal.)

As the Arizona polling numbers show, Trump and his fascist movement are still attracting frightening levels of political support, including in key swing states. Recent polls suggest that Biden and Trump are basically polling neck and neck in Arizona. And Biden’s approval rating in the state is underwater by 19 points, according to an average of recent polls. In Nevada, the most recent poll gives Biden a considerable lead over his predecessor, but many other polls have put Trump ahead.

Given the stakes in play in 2024, it’s particularly cavalier for reparations supporters on state and city task forces to put out into the ether dollar numbers that are clearly dead on arrival, and at the same time are guaranteed to provide fodder for conservative commentators and activists. Trump, DeSantis, and other culture warriors are looking for any and every example of über-wokeness, especially Californian wokeness, to lampoon. There’s zero good reason to assist them in their project.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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